I thought I was going for a solo 56 mile ride today. Instead I got a fast lesson in buying bike wheels.
We have dinner every Friday with my in-laws. It’s a nice way to end the work week, and they are always a lot of fun to spend time with. They cook a lovely, reliable, comforting meal: always a salad, a roast chicken, some green vegetable, a starch, and four metric tons of dessert. As it happens this (dessert notwithstanding) is pretty perfect food for a weekend of long rides and brick workouts. It was with a very full belly that I woke this morning and got prepped for my long ride.
It’s hot as Satan’s anus after bingeing on Indian food right now. To prevent disaster I slathered on enough sunscreen to make me look like a 9/11 New Yorker covered in ash, filled up the Camelbak with four bottle’s worth of water and electrolyte drops, loaded two bottles of Ribose and Endurox, and slung six baggies of yam mix into my jersey. GPS strapped to my wrist, spare tire in my back pocket, wallet, phone, iPod with The Bugle all queued up and ready to laugh I made it out the door just before 10am. A bit later than I wanted, but as I’ve just detailed above I was wearing all of my possessions like a Yemenite bride and it took a while to get ready.
Which is why 2.46 miles into my ride when I felt a dragging in my rear wheel, I pulled over not a little bit annoyed. You can imagine my immense frustration at finding that my rear wheel was jammed up against the rear brake. I took out my allen wrench tool and attempted to adjust the brakes, but it was no good. The wheel was out of true, meaning wobbly and rubbing against my brakes. A nice rider stopped to see if he could help, confirmed my wheel was off center, and went on his way. I slowly rode to Wheel World to see if I could get it fixed and continue on my ride.
I go to the service desk and show the mechanic my wheel. He says, “your hub is broken”. Bah, no way! Sure enough I reach down and touch it and the spokes snap off the inside hub. The metal has broken apart like a Baltic state.
I spent the next half hour finding out that wheels can cost anywhere from $250-$1,000 for a decent set. You must buy them in pairs, so I had to buy a full set. Machine-made off the shelf wheels are less expensive, and if I wanted a really fine wheel they could make one by hand for me using whatever parts I wanted. This meant choosing a hub, spoke style, and wheel rim. This would cost a bit more, $350-$1,000, but would be a better wheel. Since I am going to buy a tri-bke in the next year, it made little sense to drop a fortune on a sporty pair of race wheels. Mike guided me towards the Mavica Aksiums, in silver, the only color they had in stock.
I decided not to learn everything there is to know about wheels today. I just bought the goddamn ones that fit my budget and didn’t look like ass. I trusted my bike guy to steer me in the right direction. I dropped off the bike and walked the mile home, in my socks, so I would not mess up my $300 Sidi bike shoes and cleats.
We went to the pool and I banged out a mile and change in under 50 minutes, surrounded by pool hotties I could smell but not see. I became crazy lap guy who outlasted every other swimmer in every lane, often aware that two or three people came and went in the lane next to me while I chugged along doing lap after lap after lap, wondering how expensive this little hobby of mine has become.
Came home, worked around the house waiting for Wheel World to call. They promised to be done at 1:30. At 3 they called to say it was ready.
New wheels, new tires, tubes, and tape (to cover the spoke holes inside the wheel), $414.45.
I hit the road on my new kicks and immediately developed a dehydration headache. I managed to crank out 11 miles while sucking down fluids.
I have had easier long rides.